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Tom Lynn offers aid tothe weekend warrior

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Ray O’Hanlon

At first glance, there is more than a hint of the medieval torture chamber about Tom Lynn’s office. This looks like a rack. That looks like something the hapless prisoner would be plonked into — just before the boiling oil is added. Yeah, 13th century torturers and present-day physical therapists could probably engage in interesting discussions about matters such as stretching a muscle this way or that.

But we’ll give Lynn and his profession the benefit of the doubt. He is a craftsman of our time, the age of healing and the body as pampered temple. Unlike the torturer of old, Lynn will only stretch you until you can move — as opposed to stretching you until movement ceases.

Yes indeed, there are those who would not be moving much at all without Tom Lynn’s skills, whether applied as a result of recreational physical activity gone awry, injury in the workplace or, as is too often the case these days, on our increasingly crazy highways.

Lynn is 40, a native of Pearl River, father of four. He graduated from SUNY Stony Brook, on Long Island, in 1981 and has studied in several other institutions, including Hunter College. In the course of a career stretching back to the early ’80s, he has sorted out everything from sprained thumbs to the injuries of some of the world’s greatest athletes.

“There’s so many options now in terms of how you want to deal with injuries,” Lynn said. “People today are certainly more aware of their bodies.

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“Yet while there has been a lot of developments technologically, we find that the old basic stuff, such as massage, stretching, exercise, ice, heat, hydrotherapy — which has made a big comeback — seem to have undergone a renewal as well.

“But the technology and the equipment we use now is more acceptable to the patient. The old form of electrical stimulation, for example, was to slap an electric eel on an injured muscle and watch the muscle contract. The pain was disproportionate to the gain. So technology has improved that aspect of it.”

In the course of his work, Lynn sees many “compensation” patients as a result of car accidents and injuries on the job.

“There’s also your typical recreational athlete,” he said. “They are now a very common patient. Beyond that, we’re also seeing a trend towards ultra-endurance athletes and their injuries.”

A few years ago, Lynn and fellow physical therapist, Los Angeles-based Bob Forster, had a close up look at what people are prepared to do to their bodies in the fast ’90s — for fun. They provided the physical therapy support for five athletes — four men and a woman — in the Eco Challenge, a five-segment race over seven days and 360 miles of Utah desert. The physio partners, needless to say, were kept busy.

“They started with a combination of horseback riding and running over a marathon distance,” Lynn said. “Then there was a 110-mile hike through the desert followed by a 60-mile mountain bike race. After that there was white river rafting down the Colorado ending up with a 35-mile paddle on Lake Powell.”

Sounds challenging. But even that doesn’t match Lynn’s experience with “regular” athletes.

“We were blessed to have been able to work with Jackie Joyner Kersee and others, including the late Florence Griffith Joyner. She was just a nice lady, a nice lady,” he said.

Others to have trusted their zillion dollar bodies to Lynn’s skills include Olympic sprint champion Gail Devers.

But Lynn has a deep and very particular respect for Joyner Kersee.

“Jackie finished her career at the Goodwill Games earlier this year,” he said. “It was nice to see her win and go out victoriously. Athletes, or indeed people like her, don’t come along often. She’s the greatest female athlete of all time and that puts her up on a level with Muhammad Ali. She was great to work with.

“My involvement in the Olympics is through Bob Forster. We grew up together in Pearl River and began working in the early 1980s with the UCLA track team.”

But while California beckoned his boyhood pal, Lynn retained a strong attachment to the East Coast. He recently set up his own practice in the Rockland County community of New City.

“I get a lot of people approaching me saying this or that hurts,” he said. “I send them to the doctor because New York is not a direct-access state and people need referrals from their primary care physicians before receiving physiotherapy.

“In a typical day I would see from 15 to 20 patients. Treatments run anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour. I could be looking after three or four people at one time if it is especially busy.”

Lynn’s parents came to the U.S. from Mayo, his dad from Killala and his late mother from the Claremorris area. He has been back to see his many Irish relatives and is planning to take his family to Ireland sometime soon. But that depends on business — a few good breaks, if you will.

And business brought this interview to a conclusion.

“I have to go flip somebody on ice,” Lynn said.

Better flipped than boiled, to be sure.

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